Prowl is a bit of a mish-mash between horror sub-genres, but it does have an air of creepiness about it and I found the first half of the film to be very effective for the most part, but the second half seems to drag and the less than earth-shattering revelations that the film throws at you do little to elevate it. A decent atmosphere and 'smarter than the average bear' characters do push this into the territory that would cause me to recommend this, but only mildly. There certainly are other films that do what this does and do it better.
Gothika does a good job of creating atmosphere and acheiving some mild creep out moments, but it never really acheives the emotional weight that I feel it was striving for. I think Halle Berry did a good job as someone who is seemingly losing her mind and the supporting cast was good, even Penelope Cruz whom I don't care for as an actress. Robert Downey Jr. gave me an odd feeling throughout the film, almost like he was playing a different character from a different film. It's hard to go into without spoiling anything. The effects were well done and the story was well paced. A decent film in the supernatural thriller genre that should be effective for most casual viewers of the genre, but it never really feels like it goes for broke with any of its ideas. A film geared more towards to general audience than genre fans.
Vanishing Point is a movie that seems to have acheived cult status almost for the sake of having cult status. Not to say that it is a bad movie, and admittedly I would most likely have enjoyed it more had I seen it before it turned 40, but I just never found it to be a fantastic film. Unlike Dirty Mary Crazy Larry, which after a slow start, keeps the car chases coming quickly with only brief slowdowns between. This, seems to be a slower film punctuated with brief car chases to remind the audience that this is supposed to be a car chase film. When Kowalski is burning up the asphalt, the sequences are well filmed and exciting to watch. The acting is decent and the characters are believeable, even if some of them seem pretty eclectic. And the ending, while fitting for a fugitive, left me feeling a little bit cold. The kind that makes you feel like you missed a scene somewhere that would have made the ending make more sense. Vanishing Point is a classic car chase film and well worth a look if you like car chase films, I just don't think that Vanishing Point the movie lives up to Vanishing Point the myth.
Battleship is a film that when I first heard of it, I felt it was utterly stupid and decided I didn't even want to see it, especially with the inclusion of an alien fleet. For whatever reason, I did decide to finally sit down and watch this and I actually enjoyed this to a certain degree. Although, from my expectations, it would have been a near impossibility to disappoint me. Sure, the story is daffy, the performances are bland and some of the action sequences feel like Micheal Bay should have had a co-directing credit. But as a mindless action film with wanton destruction and pretty visual effects, I found it entertaining. The aliens were threatening enough, although they looked liked their suit designs were stolen straight from Halo. The running time is a little too long for my taste, but feels considerably less punishing than the Transformers sequels. If you can past the Hollywood blockbuster cliches and the cornball acting and just enjoy the action, this might work for you. Just keep your expectations low. Very low.
The Flowers of War is a beautifully filmed movie that tells the story of a very ugly era in human history. It is well made and well acted, but having seen it, I am certainly left a little puzzled by the casting of an known American actor into the lead of a Chinese film. Not that Christian Bale is bad here, quite the opposite actually. It just seems strange to me. Unless, of course, the true events upon which the film is based featured an American person in that role. The film has a long running time, and it feels like it. This is more of a drama than a combat movie, ultimately feeling somewhat like a foreign version of Jarhead or The Hurt Locker. The pacing is slower than I would have liked, but I didn't wind up being bored with it. A good film, but there are far more compelling war dramas, both foreign and domestic.
V/H/S takes the idea of found-footage horror and horror anthologies and uncerimoniously slams them together. It gives the illusion of watching actual vhs tapes quite well, but unfortunately the quality of the stories contained within doesn't quite hold up. This feels like Creepshow for a new generation, with 5 shorts shown over a sixth that ties them together. While this approach makes sense on the surface, if you think about it it doesn't hold up as well (why would someone be bothered to transfer a skype-like conversation to a vhs tape). Perhaps that's nit-picking, but that's par for the course with the film overall. Some of the stories themselves are effective on their own (Amateur Night, 10/31/98) and some, not so much (Tuesday the 17th, Second Honeymoon). And some are just there. But when you consider the film as a whole, it plays out more like a sample platter of up and coming horror filmmakers. Kind of like 'Masters of Horror', except more 'Novices of Horror'. All kidding aside, this is a decent anthology horror film that touches on different sub-genres of horror and showcases up-and-coming talent behind the camera. What that means for the future of the genre, I'll leave that to others to decide for themselves. But they may help in saving a genre that has been put on life support by Hollywood. It's hard to do more damage than the studio suits have already done.
Dredd was a film that i didn't have much in the way of expectations for and perhaps that is why I enjoyed it to the extent I did. The plot is fairly simple, even as action films go, and has drawn a lot of comparisons to the Indonisian fillm The Raid. While that was a martial arts showcase that moves fast and is very kinetic, it is very different in tone from Dredd. If The Raid is a streamlined, fast-attack vehicle, Dredd is a tank. It is slow in comparison, but diliberately paced and more focused on shootouts rather than hand-to-hand combat. The action is very violent and bloody, more so than I was expecting, which was a pleasant surprise. Even to the point were you might be thinking 'overkill' more than a couple times. Even with all the hardcore violence, the film carries a tone that allows it to be a fun ride. I did not see this in 3D, but I can imagine the 'slow-mo' sequences would have looked rather impressive; they certainly looked good in 2D. I think they were used effectively and could have easily been overused, but thankfully were never pushed that far. Dredd is a fun, hardcore action film that is well worth a look for action fans that are tired of watered down PG-13 action movies, especially that one from the 90's starring Sylvester Stallone.
Moonrise Kingdom is a smart, fun and entertaining film, yet it has an outbeat and quirky personality that may not sit well with everyone. I found it a bit hard to get into at first, but the characters are so unique and loveable that it is hard not to get pulled into their world. While I realise that I am not the target demographic for this film and this is the first of Wes Anderson's movies I have seen, I found the humour to be very understated. More so than expected. Technically speaking, this is a beautifully shot film. Many scenes are simply gorgeous to watch for the composition of the shots and the cinematography. This is an expertly crafted film that marches to beat of it's own drum and has a very different sense of humour than to be expected for the uninitiated. Well worth a look.
Dirty Mary Crazy Larry is a film with a simple heist premise and little in the way of character developement. The writing is much better, with the dialogue coming across as either mildy clever or utterly painful to listen to. But these aren't exactly reasons that one would seek out this film to watch. The car chase sequences are what this film is set out to showcase and it does them very well. The story only exists to set up the chases that follow. While the cast performances are passable, the real stars are the cars themselves, particularily the '69 Charger. While this may not have the flashy stunts of current films, it is refreshing to know that all of the stunts in this movie were practical effects and were done at actually speed. And knowing that, some of it is pretty amazing. Much like Vanishing Point, this is a movie for those that like high energy, realistic car chases and can except a thin story. Much like the cars, they certainly don't make them like this anymore.
Blade 2 is a decent follow up to Blade, but I found it to be a bit too stylized and over the top. The cast is decent, Wesley Snipes plays the character for all it's worth, and most of the supporting characters tow the line nicely. Some of the effects feel seriously dated, but for the most part they hold up nicely. While I have been a fan of most of Guillermo del Toro's work, this one just felt off for me. Decent, and at times fun, but not a great film.
Wrong Turn 5 is about a bad and pointless as films come. From a stupid story, to incompetant characters, bad makeup and effects, and horrendous acting, this is easily one of, if not the worst entry in an already mediocre series. With the possible exception of the third film, which was terrible as well. There really is nothing noteworthy here, I recommend to avoid at all costs unless you are a completist and have the rest of the series. And even then, it's not really worth it.
Coach Carter is a good film, but it isn't a great film. The story is very cliched and plays out exactly the way you would expect it to. I'm not familiar with the story it is based on, so I can't comment on how much has been altered for dramatic effect, but it feels very much like every other high school sports movie to come out of Hollywood. I still found it enjoyable however, and Sam Jackson give a great performance. The rest of the cast is fine, with no real standouts. If you can get past the overly familiar story and just go with it, you might find this enjoyable. And it doesn't hurt if you enjoy Sam Jackson, either.
It's Kind of a Funny Story is a film that I enjoyed more than I thought that I would. The story felt rather familiar, although it is dressed up nicely to make it feel fresher. The cast did a nice job across the board and this is one of the few films I enjoyed Zach Galifianakis in. He plays one of the most fleshed out residents of the loony bin and gives the character of Bobby a degree of humanity that makes you empathize and care about him, rather than just being annoying as he usually is. This film isn't an outright comedy like I was expecting, but rather it is a light-hearted drama. Well worth a look for those who would like a light drama that may just warm your heart a little.
Lockout is a pretty standard action/sci-fi film that entertains, yet doesn't give you anything you don't expect. It inevitably will draw comparisons to Escape From New York, but I think it lacks some of the charm of John Carpenter's film. Guy Pearce is passable as the smart-ass Snow and Maggie Grace is largely annoying, but her character starts to grow a bit as the film progresses. Most of the prisoners are largely forgetable, serving as nothing more than cannon fodder. A decent film if you want some mindless action and entertainment, but it is nothing you haven't seen before and likely won't want to revisit.
Chernobyl Diaries is a film that I really did want to enjoy, but after a promising start this one goes of the rails. While the idea of a bunch of dumbasses sneaking into somewhere they shouldn't be is nothing new for horror films, the early going of the film had a nice atmosphere to it and the tension through the first night was palpable. However, The film starts to lose traction from there and with the exception of a couple of moments, the last 30 minutes or so was actually kind of bland. Nearly every horror cliche is on display here and the characters do little to inspire any real sympathy. The only character I liked was the guide, Uri. It is almost a little sad to say, but I think this movie could have benefitted from being shot as a 'found footage' film rather than conventionally. Mind you characters that you care about, avoidance of cliches and a more intriguing ending would have helped too. An interesting enough concept and an effective start, but plagued by unsympathetic characters, an unsatisfying ending and an uninspired second half, this film fails to deliver. Not a total disaster, but wait for a chance to see it when it doesn't cost you much more than time.
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, based on title alone, introduces itself as a campy, fun film. Now, I have no knowledge of the book upon which the film is based other than that it exists, so I have no idea of the tone of the story. But the end result turned out to be neither fun and campy or overly serious, instead choosing to walk the line between the two. The tone never chooses one side of the fence or the other, instead bouncing back and forth. I also found the story quite dry with considerably less action than I was expecting. Although I can and have enjoyed dry films in the past, the inconsistant tone certainly doesn't help. Also largely absent is Timur Bekmambetov's distinctive visual style. While there is a couple of scenes with visual flair, they are greatly muted when compared against his previous works. The cast is decent, but no one truly shines here. I all, a rather disappointing endeavor that doesn't know what it wants to be and fails to deliver any real excitement it promises. I've seen much worse than this, but for me it was disappointing to see a wasted chance to create a truly memorable, original, and entertaining film. What a shame.
Step Up is a very formulaic film that hits nearly every cliche in the book and is as predictable as you would think it would be. The acting isn't terribly great, particularily Channing Tatum's impression of a black guy for 105 minutes. The story is quite derivative as well, not taking any opportunity to bring anything new to the formula. This almost feels like most of the romantic comedies on the market, with the addition of a dance element. Yet, against all odds, I managed to enjoy the movie. It does seem to have a little bit of heart, even if it doesn't show it all the time. Not really a movie I could openly recommend, but I didn't hate it. Even without all the flashy visuals of the following films.
12 Rounds isn't a great movie. It doesn't have a very compelling story, the acting is uninspired, and the writing is pushing unintentionally funny. John Cena delivers a better performance here than in The Marine, but he is still nothing special. This is another of the generic action films that fails to take any risks or try to do anything new with the genre. While this may satisfy some cravings for action movie carnage, it is the movie equivilant of junk food. A mild recommendation, but only for action fans, or fans of Cena.
Perrier's Bounty is a quirky take on a familiar story and one that I enjoyed. While the story is common and plays out how you would expect it to, it's the little details along the way that make it a fun journey to take. The performances are reasonably good from all, but Jim Broadbent steals the show as Micheal's father who thinks the next time he sleeps he will die, which results in some amusing sequences throughout the film. The film does degenrate into typical shoot-out senarios towards the end, but I feel that the strength of the opening helps to keep your interest to see how things play out for the characters. Well worth a look for those who enjoy quirky and slightly off-beat crime thrillers.
Heartless is a good attempt at a unique and original film that aims to offer social commentary along with some shocks and unsettling situations. Unfortunately, it doesn't always work as effectively as it could have, but it doesn't ruin the film. Jim Sturgess gives a good performance as Jamie, and the rest of the cast is also holds their own. The story is unique and interesting, highlighting the need we all have to be normal and accepted and the price we are willing to pay to acheive it. There is also and underlying current of unease as we never really know whether some events are actually happening or just imagined. The ending also nicely fits the tone of the rest of the film and I felt the conversation with Jamie and his father to be very effective and moving. I think this is a movie worth checking out, even if it's not the most polished and a little uneven.